The last three years have marked a period of great flux for Eastman Kodak Co.’s sponsorship program.

At one point, it appeared that the company–which had long ranked among the industry’s largest spenders–would drastically reduce its portfolio, particularly its involvement with big-ticket, consumer-oriented properties.

But in the end, that is not the case. Although the make-up of its portfolio is significantly different than it was a few years ago–as are the products it is promoting and the way it is activating–Kodak has recommitted to sponsorship, signing new deals and moving responsibility for them up to the senior executive levels of the company.

Even before it realizes tens of millions of dollars in savings from its decision to end its TOP worldwide Olympic sponsorship after the Beijing ’08 Olympic Games, the company is scouting and signing new deals.

Over the past several months, Kodak has dropped an estimated low-to-mid-seven-figure total on new ties, including the PGA Tour, NBA Orlando Magic and American Collegiate Intramural Sports, a property that provides access to students at more than 200 colleges and universities nationwide.

Those deals follow a new multiyear partnership with Six Flags, Inc.’s theme parks, as well as two new mobile marketing programs.

Going forward, Kodak is expected to announce shortly a new deal as official imaging partner of NASCAR.

The company plans to sign additional sponsorships with properties that offer product demonstration and activation opportunities on a consistent basis–something the Olympics did not provide.

“We loved the Olympics, but unfortunately the sponsorship only comes once every two years,” said Jeff Hayzlett, Kodak’s chief business development officer and vice president. “We’re looking for big and small sponsorships that we can activate to reach our target customers.”

Kodak’s recent sponsorship fluctuations reflect the sometimes rocky road the company has traveled as it transformed itself from a manufacturer of film and other old-line photo products to a leading player in digital imaging.

With a wide range of digital offerings now on offer, the company is looking to its new and continuing deals to do some of the heavy lifting in getting the word out and putting products in potential buyers’ hands.

Looks To Click With Both B2C And B2B Audiences
Many of Kodak’s major sponsorships will be leveraged to reach both consumer and business customers.

On the B2B side, revenue from digital presses, plate setters and other commercial products manufactured by Kodak’s Graphic Communications Group represent roughly 65 percent of the company’s revenue, said Hayzlett, who previously served as the group’s CMO and vice president before being appointed to his current corporate position in October.

Consumer products such as digital cameras and photo frames are also significant revenue generators for the company.

The PGA Tour sponsorship offers a good example of Kodak’s dual focus.

“The PGA Tour sponsorship gives us entrée to cosponsors at a very high level. The networking opportunities with those companies are very good,” Hayzlett said. Kodak also will entertain other business customers and prospects at tournaments.

To reach consumers, Kodak will place its logo on the side panel of the PGA Tour’s new on-course digital scoreboards.

“The transformation of our scoreboards from the old rollover technology to LED digital technology was attractive to Kodak as they transform their business from film to digital,” said Jon Podany, the PGA Tour’s senior vice president of business development.

Kodak also plans to activate the tie with on-site product demos, as well as consumer promotions to be rolled out in ’09, said Terry Clas, Kodak’s director of new business development, who noted the sponsorship was signed too late to develop and implement promotions for the ’08 season.

The two organizations still are hammering out category exclusivity, said Podany, noting that Kodak’s rights will not overlap those of Canon U.S.A, Inc., which owns the PGA Tour’s camera and printer categories, among others.

Like its PGA Tour tie, Kodak plans to leverage its NASCAR involvement to generate sales to businesses and consumers.

Among its plans, the company plans to participate in NASCAR’s B2B Council. In addition to corporate sales, Kodak will seek to sell consumer-oriented products through employee discount or incentive programs offered by other NASCAR sponsors, Hayzlett said.

Kodak uses its existing partnership with Penske Racing for consumer promotions. For ’07, the company ran a promotion around the team’s Nextel Cup Series entry driven by Ryan Newman, which offered the chance to design the car’s paint scheme at September’s race at California Speedway. The winner also received transportation to the race, VIP access and an inkjet printer. Consumers entered the promo at ThinkLikeRyan.com.

As part of its Penske relationship, Kodak titled Newman’s car in three Nextel Cup races and seven Busch Series races and also was associate sponsor on IRL IndyCar Series entries piloted by Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish, Jr.

Not all sponsorships will be asked to serve both B2B and B2C masters. The company used its partnership with ACIS’s Pontiac Flag Football program to promote the launch this year of its first-ever line of consumer inkjet printers.

Kodak leveraged the tie to demonstrate the $130 EasyShare All-in-One 5100 printer in action. At each school, ACIS campus reps used Kodak cameras to take photos of the intramural football players. The reps then immediately printed the photos on the inkjet printer.

To encourage students to participate, Kodak entered each player into a sweeps dangling a trip to this weekend’s Pontiac ACIS Flag Football National Championship in New Orleans, as well as one of 700 printers.

“Printers are often perceived as commodities. This sponsorship let us explain our technology directly to college students, a demographic that does a lot of printing,” said Barbara Pierce, worldwide PR director for Kodak’s Inkjet Systems division.

Sponsorship Now A Corporate Responsibility
In an effort to better leverage its sponsorships across multiple business units, Kodak has centralized sponsorship decision-making under Hayzlett within the Rochester, N.Y.-based business development department.

In addition to sponsorship, the department oversees corporate and product PR, communications and public affairs, brand management, market development and corporate relationships and partnerships.

Previously, Kodak ran most of its major sponsorships out of its Atlanta-based Americas region headquarters.

“This is an effort to make our partnerships more strategic and global,” said David Lanzillo, a company spokesperson.

Placing sponsorship oversight under the auspices of corporate also underscores the company’s emphasis on generating return on investment from its partnerships, he said.

Kodak accepts proposals online; for a link to its submission page, please visit www.sponsorship.com/kodak.